The Town of Ponoka is looking at a possible six to seven per cent tax increase.
After two full days of budget deliberations Feb. 21 and 22, and then Feb. 27, between town council and administration, the number was brought down from around 15 per cent originally brought forward by administration.
Mayor Rick Bonnett said it’s a give and take with administration and council finding a happy medium. “To operate a town like this, it takes dollars, there’s no doubt about that.”
“Council’s been very aggressive but council also said we’re not going to hit our citizens with high increases,” said Bonnett.
He pointed out that Ponoka has seen relatively low tax increases over the years. “We’re still one of the lowest urban municipalities in the province.”
From the perspective of a tax increase on the residential side, Bonnett said the potential increase — it’s potential as it hasn’t been approved by council formally — is around $125 to $150 extra for a $300,000 home.
“We’re also looking at implementing a minimum tax,” said Bonnett, explaining that this would apply to vacant properties or properties that have not seen any development.
This idea of a minimum tax is still in the works, with the numbers not set.
He said a plus with this budget is the town has seen an increase in assessment. Bonnett feels the economic development push in recent years is a factor in that.
Looking at the new learning centre, that in itself could be an increase of seven per cent tax increase. “We also see the spin off that’s come from that is relatively huge,” said Bonnett.
“We’ve seen now just about a $10,000 increase in our assessment base.”
To continue with this momentum, Bonnett said he’s pushing administration to streamline the development process for a quicker turnaround.
Tipping fees for the town are also going up. These fees relate to the town hauling garbage from its transfer station to the Dried Meat Lake landfill in Camrose County.
“Their tipping fees went up significantly,” said Bonnett. “Like $60,000 a year, extra.”
“It’s a two-fold problem. One, we’re not seeing our citizens recycle enough because we’re hauling more loads out there.”
“The other side of the coin is we’re seeing non-residents bringing garbage because every municipality around us has increased their tipping fees and we haven’t,” added Bonnett.
In addition, the company contracted to haul the garbage, Nikirk Brothers out of Rimbey, has had to increase its rates because of the carbon levi imposed by the province.
Despite this increase, council wanted money to come out of reserves to pay for the additional cost, as it feels more education is needed for residents. Bonnett also plans to advocate with the province on pushing for more of a reduce, reuse, recycle strategy.
Other areas that council pushed for a reduction are in areas where there is little use. For one, council found $100,000 to remove from the Hudson Green Nature and Activity Centre budget.
Bylaw officer program
Bylaw enforcement is going to happen with a part time position.
The town is budgeting $59,000 for the position, which should include salaries, benefits and other expenses. Bonnett said there’s been a lot of feedback from residents to see some sort of bylaw enforcement related to the town’s bylaws.
He says the program will start as an educational outreach to residents but repeat offenders will be ticketed.